I’m old enough to remember that Saturday mornings were cartoon time on the local television channels, and I certainly partook of my share. Interspersed among the Jonny Quest, Magilla Gorilla, Wacky Races, The Pink Panther, and countless others were tons of Looney Tunes, some of which are eternal in both their entertainment value and nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned.

One such, Show Biz Bugs, offered the usual situation of Daffy Duck trying to out-do Bugs Bunny, in this case during a theater show the two of them are offering an audience. Toward the end, Daffy comes out in a devil costume, to perform a “an act that no other performer has dared to execute!” He consumed gasoline, nitroglycerin, gunpowder, and oddly, Uranium-238, then swallowed a lit match. He exploded, of course, and was met with tremendous applause.

Bugs, applauding as well, tells a now translucent Daffy ghost ascending upwards that “they loved it! They want more!”

Daffy replies “I know, I know, but I can only do it once.

This snippet (which you won’t see broadcast today, because apparently kids back then understood that drinking gasoline etc. is not something you do, while kids today apparently can’t be trusted to reach that conclusion on their own) bubbled up from my memory while reading P.J. O’Rourke’s column in yesterday’s New York Post, about why kids today love socialism (these are the kids who we apparently need to keep from witnessing Daffy sprinkle gunpowder into his maw, by the way). O’Rourke correctly points out that they haven’t figure out that once they take something from someone else, they can’t go back and take it again.

It’s excusable, up to a point, that kids fall for the siren song of socialism. After all, they’re kids, they haven’t actually worked for a living yet, they haven’t had to pay taxes, they haven’t had to witness someone lay claim to the fruit of their labors without compensating them. It’s an old trope, but many a young socialist has been “cured” by looking at the taxes withheld from his first paycheck.

Unfortunately, these young people are nowadays deep in thrall to older socialists, those stubborn ones who have had the chance to witness socialism’s failures, to study its destructive and murderous history, but remain convinced that it can somehow, magically, be “done right” by them. No longer confined to the tenured and intellectually-insulated halls of academia, they’re in the media, in the blogosphere, and in Congress, and their message is always “take, take, take.”

The young, promised that they can have an easier life simply by giving power to those who’d take, are wrongly convinced of two things: that wealth is a fixed pie, and that the only way to get it is to take it from someone else; and that those from whom they take will always be around to be taken from.

The first is obviously wrong. Wealth is created by human activity, and wealth creation happens every moment of every day. The vast majority of millionaires (roughly seven of every eight) are self-made, and the promise of an economically free society is the opportunity for upward economic mobility. It’s worth noting that this mobility was the norm prior to LBJ’s Great Society and the subsequent massive expansion of government, both in regulation and in the welfare state. Big Government has harmed economic mobility rather than helping it, and trapped countless millions in permanent dependence.

The second is also obviously wrong. Even if a partial taking did not disincentivize wealth creators from continuing (why work more if what you produce by working more simply gets taken?), eventually, you “run out of other people’s money.”

A common motivator of imperial expansion in olden and ancient times was the need for fresh wealth. Rather than create more within their borders, many states found it easier to simply plunder that of their neighbors. Unfortunately, even the greatest military power will eventually run out of lands to plunder. Without internal productivity, such societies are doomed to decline, as history has made amply clear (even the Romans could not escape the certain doom that welfare states face).

Venezuela, once admired as a paradigm of socialism, warns us of the perils of plunder. Hugo Chavez nationalized industry after industry in order to fund the socialist state he built, despite sitting on the world’s largest reserves of petroleum, and still could not fend off economic ruin, poverty, starvation, and mass murder. He ran out of Other People’s Money, as anyone with half a brain knew he would.

Most of those with half a brain who advocate for confiscatory income taxation (and wealth taxation), if I am to be cynical, are probably expecting that they’ll get “theirs” before the well runs dry, and when it does, it’ll be some other suckers that suffer. Unfortunately for them, societies that work as they desire them to end up like the stage under Daffy’s feet: scorched and barren.

Human intellect is remarkably elastic. In defending their ideology despite its history and its illogic, our socialists’ contortions would make a Cirque Du Soleil performer envious. And, when they witness a socialistic society exploding a la Daffy, they write it off as a mere failure of execution (pun intended). Such tendentious elasticity does not confer validity, nor does it garner the respect that physical elasticity does. When socialists have ‘taxed the rich… til there are no rich no more,” where will they get the money with which to continue funding those who’ve grown accustomed to being funded? Theirs isn’t the European way, no matter that they claim to admire Europe’s social democracies. Europeans tax themselves, not just “others,” and have a greater affinity for capitalism than our young fools do. Theirs is the way of Venezuela, where government takes from the wealth creators, and takes, and takes, until there’s nothing left to take.

What happens when everything’s been taken?

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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